Close combat: On Rajasthan Assembly polls

Rajasthan CM is banking on welfare schemes in a keen contest

November 27, 2023 12:21 am | Updated December 03, 2023 12:36 pm IST

About three of four registered voters turned up to vote in the Assembly polls in Rajasthan on Saturday, a marginally higher proportion than in the 2018 elections and around the same as in 2013. Except for sporadic incidents of violence such as in Sikar, where minor stone-pelting was reported, the day passed peacefully. The last leg of campaigning in the State was fervent with both the ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) making frequent complaints of violations of the model code of conduct by the other. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP blitzkrieg in the last stretch and played up the anger and dissatisfaction among the Gujjars, who are reportedly upset with the Congress for side-lining Sachin Pilot. Mr. Modi said that the party’s treatment of Mr. Pilot, who had led an unsuccessful rebellion to replace Ashok Gehlot as Chief Minister in 2020, amounted to insulting the Gujjars. Sensing the line of attack by Mr. Modi, Mr. Gehlot and Mr. Pilot closed ranks in the final days of campaign. Whether their laboured show of unity that sought to stem the resentment among the Gujjars against the Congress bears fruit will be known on December 3, when the votes are counted.

Also read: LIVE: Rajasthan Election Results 2023

Mr. Gehlot’s arsenal included his welfare regime, the centre piece of which is the promise of a health cover of ₹50 lakh to all; his stress on Rajasthani regional identity; and his call for communal amity in the State. The last day of campaigning saw Mr. Gehlot change his social media profile picture to one of him holding a map of Rajasthan close to his chest. This serves to underscore the importance of the State’s language and culture, which, according to him, are threatened by the increasing dominance of the BJP’s Hindutva politics that advances national uniformity across all fields of human activity. Mr. Gehlot attempted to break the electoral pattern of a State that has a habit of voting out the incumbent in each election. The BJP started with the advantage of the State’s electoral pattern, and played the caste and religious cards to its advantage. It questioned the Congress’s welfare plank and accused it of appeasing minorities. Mr. Modi brought up Congress ally DMK’s critique of Sanatana Dharma as a “threat to Rajasthan’s culture”. The BJP remained confident of winning comfortably, entirely on the strength of Mr. Modi’s popularity and its Hindutva plank. Whatever may be the outcome, the two national parties will have learned a lot from an intense contest in Rajasthan.

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